|IFSC World Cup||Wins||Podiums|
Tomoa Narasaki (JPN) Age: 23
Born in Utsunomiya, 50 kilometres north of Tokyo, Narasaki got a lucky break right at the start of his climbing career when - aged 10 - he was taken under the wing of legendary Japanese climber Sachi Amma. Amma’s family ran a gym and young Narasaki's debut coincided with Amma just as the elder climber’s incredibly successful IFSC career was taking off. That stroke of fortune wasn’t the only early advantage Narasaki had - he’d also taken part in gymnastics competitions and was strong and well-coordinated before he ever walked into a climbing gym. He’s made the most of those two head starts by combining them with a ferocious work ethic and fierce determination.
Narasaki's World Cup career got underway in 2012 (at a Lead World Cup in Japan) but it wasn’t until 2014 that he started competing regularly in Boulder events. The results were unspectacular until the Haiyang World Cup that year, when he made his first semi final and then his first final at the same event. After that he began to consistently make semis but no more finals until Chongqing, China in 2016 when he made the final, won the event and went on to dominate the season. In that year alone he won the Boulder World Cup overall title, a World Championship gold in Boulder, and the adidas Rockstars invitational competition. In the years since, Narasaki’s added three Lead World Cup medals to his tally and in 2019 did another World Cup overall and World Championship double to cement his place as one of the sport’s true greats. His natural quietness and lack of English language skills make him a somewhat mysterious character, essentially unknown even to those who see him regularly at competitions, and this only adds to his aura.
Hachioji World Championships: 1st Place
Going into Hachioji the pressure was really on Narasaki; he was considered the best male Japanese climber (which is saying something) and was expected, in front of his home crowd, to qualify for the Olympics at the first time of asking. He didn’t so much meet expectations, he blew them away - scoring just 4 points in the Combined final and winning the competition seemingly at a canter.
Narasaki is the only male climber in IFSC history to win the Boulder World Cup and Boulder World Championships in the same season. And he’s done it twice! Narasaki is regularly featured in men's fashion magazines such as GQ Japan and is somewhat of a rising sports celebrity in his home country.
On paper Narasaki is the favourite for gold but he is a shy, quiet guy and may not deal well with the scrutiny (which will be immense) from the Japanese media - we think he’ll be on the podium, but not the top step.